Parents – schools need grace in the Spring.

Before we go on, some fun praise we saw in this week’s Possip. Praise like that from these Tennessee parents,

“My son can’t read good and he has a number of other situations going on. But at {this school} he has come around so much. He’s staying after school for tutoring and he’s reading so much better. The teachers are helping my son so much and I can tell this to anyone it’s because of {this school} that my son is looking forward to college with no fears.”

“Thank you for all the forms of communication you all use. If I don’t get it by voicemail i get it from email and text.”

We are grateful that our schools get such great praise. Because this month schools – more than most months – need grace. 

Let us give you just a brief overview of all that is happening in April:

1.Testing!  Most districts and states have some form of high stakes testing this month.  Parents, rightfully, are thinking about the impact of testing on their child.  The challenge is schools have to think about the impact of testing on hundreds (if not thousands) of children.  They have to walk a fine line of creating urgency for kids while not stressing them out.  They have to make sure kids have learned as much as possible – while having to trust that it’s going to be okay either way. 

Why is it so high stakes for schools? Because although no parent wants to be the one whose kid is stressed, no parent wants to be the one whose kid didn’t reach their goals.  So a school has to figure out how to not stress the child but to reach the highest goals a parent has imagined.  And that’s just to start!

Schools also have lasting implications based on how their students do on this test.  They may get labeled based on this test – which then can have an impact on how their teachers and leaders feel. 

Because although no parent wants their kid stressed, no parent wants their kid not to reach their goals or succeed on the tests. 

There are impacts on reputations, staffing, and enrollment based on tests that are happening this time of year.  And school leaders and teachers and staff are trying to navigate all of those fine lines. 

This isn’t to mention all of the administrative work that comes from being in 1-8 days of some form of testing. 

Schools have to recruit proctors, take someone from their regular school duties to testing duties, and re-create a new schedule unique for this time of year.

Note: this isn’t an anti-testing push.  This is just a reality check that while we as parents think about the impact of testing on our one child, for our child’s school there is much more in mind.

If testing were all a school needed to think about, that could be okay – but then there’s more.

2. Planning for Next Year! That teacher you love so much?  Your child’s school loves that teacher too.  But there’s a chance that teacher may be getting married and moving, or may want to try teaching a different grade, or may want to try teaching at a different school. 

So your child’s school is trying to figure out which teachers are planning to return to teach next year, who else they need to hire to fill out open roles, what they’ve heard this year worked or didn’t work for the schedule or for student’s academic and social development.

Enrollment? Your child’s school is trying to figure out how on or off track they are for enrollment targets for the Fall.  Over enrolled?  You have frustrated parents because class sizes are too big and changes to classes have to be made after the first day of school.  Under enrolled?  You have an under resourced school, chances that the school is going to have to lose teachers or programs, and again changes are going to have to be made after the first day of school.

At the same time, while schools are planning things are constantly changing.  State legislatures create new policies that can impact things ranging from recess times to class sizes to testing windows.  Schools will eventually get back the results of their tests (often after the summer) and then they’ll have to do some more planning.

But for now, schools are trying to figure out how they can best prepare for the future year.

3. Kids & Spring Fever. Not lastly, but thirdly – schools have the joys of kids and spring fever.  If you look back on your adolescence and some horrible set of decisions you may have made – odds are they happened between March and June.  Kids get a little restless in the spring – as do we all.  Spring sports start which means a lot more kids are doing extracurricular activities and are probably even more tired than usual.  The days are getting longer so kids are often staying up later and are sleepier. 

We’ve seen some hilarious mom blogs about the pains of the last weeks of school – and it’s the same for schools too! They are also planning these end of year events: field day, awards ceremony, graduation, prom, senior trip, Spring Banquet.  You get the gist. 

And all of this is assuming there’s nothing else unique going on with the school.

So I’m just saying there’s a lot going on. 

Parents, keep sharing and helping your child’s school be the best that they can be.  But also give a ton of grace and love. 

Schools are a bit like an iceberg.  You can see what’s at the tip – and as big as that may look it is truly just a fraction of all that is going on underneath it.